Two years ago this month, the MTSD Board of Education approved a Strategic Plan.
For some organizations, the exercise of putting together a strategic plan is basically just that: an exercise. The focus is on semantics and vivid vision statements and not how to accomplish what actually needs to be done.
That has not been the scenario in MTSD. In the months after the plan was approved, the Board grappled with the question of how the goals could be met, and a year later initiated the appointment of an ad hoc committee to identify financial solutions to sustain the District and support the plan.
The Ad Hoc Committee, comprised of a diverse group of 17 citizens who have in some cases in the past publicly disagreed with the actions of the District, met from January to June 2014 to fully understand the District’s finances and strategic goals and identify some answers. The report of the committee was reviewed in July and again this month by the Board. It can be viewed here.
The Ad Hoc Committee recommended a number of specific action items. Within the framework of an overall, long term plan, these action items support objectives to stabilize enrollment, support the culture of excellence embraced by the District and improve the District’s financial stability.
Three of the specific action items are being pursued by the District currently. Details about 4-year-old kindergarten, the sale of District land and a facilities referendum are discussed below.
4-K Public Commentary October 27
The addition of 4-year-old kindergarten to the public schools in MTSD has been discussed and voted down twice in recent years. Nonetheless, it was among the recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee. Why?
- A 4-K program generates higher enrollment, which would stem the downward trend MTSD has seen for most of the last 10-15 years. Enrollment is tied directly to revenue for the District.
- Students who attend private/parochial schools for 4-K are more likely to stay there rather than move to public schools.
- Educationally, a 4-K program improves preparation for 5-K and ensures students come into 5-K with a consistent set of skills.
- 96% of all K-12 Districts in the state now have a 4-K program.
The Board of Education will seek public comment on the proposed addition of 4-K next year at its October 27 business meeting . The meeting will begin at 7:00pm at the Range Line Conference Room. Citizens unable to attend are encouraged to email their comments to school board members. The Board will vote at its November meeting but will not entertain public comments at that time. Emails can be found here.
Facilities Referendum Considered to Address Aging School Properties
Got 50-year-old windows in your house? MTSD does, as well as having asbestos floor tiles starting to crack and other materials in the buildings just plain wearing out. A facilities report and long term plan presented in April was the catalyst for consideration of a facilities referendum to upgrade facilities district-wide. The Long Term Facilities Plan presented can be reviewed here.
There are four components being considered:
Capital Improvements for items like flooring, windows and dozens of other projects, coming to a total of $11,065,419.
Homestead Performing Arts: The mouse that appeared on the auditorium stage during the 2014 Annual Meeting might have been the so-called “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to the state of the HHS Performing Arts facilities. A total of $2,105,220 is requested to, among other things, replace the seating in the facility which is one of the largest auditoriums in the area.
Homestead Athletics: A total of $1,278,018 will be asked to improve athletic facilities, including the replacement of bleachers, new gym curtains and similar projects. The HHS Boosters are hoping to improve on the facilities at the high school to an even greater extent through a private fundraising effort to make other significant capital improvements. (See post below).
Student Centered Learning Environments: Anyone who has attended a forum or meeting in the Lecture Hall at HHS can use that as an example of needed improvements. In addition to not being ADA compliant, the space would benefit from an improved set up for electronic communications and seating which would facilitate student group work. The IMCs (Instructional Media Centers) at all the schools would similarly benefit from improvements to allow students to more fully utilize the research and other resources available there. The total for these projects, which would be at all schools, would be $5,299,176.
The District will do a survey to educate citizens about the need and gauge support. There will also be opportunities for residents to tour the aging facilities to see first hand the need that exists and the vision for these projects. The Administration is expected to make a formal recommendation to the Board of Education in December 2014.
If approved by the electorate at any level, funding for the project would be structured to dovetail with the payoff of the last facilities referendum, passed in 1998. Based on projections from the District’s financial advisors at Robert W. Baird, taxpayers would see a small impact on their taxes initially and would see a decrease once the 1998 referendum was completely paid off in 2019.
MTSD Receives Bid on Swan Road Land
The Central Growth Area, formally approved by the City of Mequon this summer, is attracting attention from developers. The 112-acre tract of land in the Central Growth Area owned by MTSD is on the market and reportedly has received a bid of $2.1myln. The last appraisal, in February 2013, gave the land a value of $1,990,000.
The District will vote on a sale at its October 27 business meeting, held at Range Line School at 7:00pm. The Board of Education plans to use the proceeds from the sale to pay off non-referendum debt in the amount of $1,600,000, which will free up $260,000 per year currently being paid out for principal and interest on the debt. Those funds will be available for other regular budget items.
The City has already put in place parameters for lot size and other requirements for developers in the Central Growth Area. Any proposal would have to be approved by the City of Mequon Planning Commission, a process that could take several months. For more information on the possible sale, click here.